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BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights

Choose the right LED lights for your boat trailer.

October 6, 2014
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights Bill Doster

LED lights prove more reliable than incandescent bulbs. LEDs boast life cycles of 100,000 hours and use less power, putting less strain on the rest of the vehicle’s electrical system. Unless you are planning to replace only one light and the system is incandescent, we’d recommend LEDs. Once your incandescent lights start to go, you can keep replacing them or redo the whole system with LEDs and solve the problem, probably for the life of your trailer.

The products here aren’t the entire universe of LED trailer lights out there, just several of the most popular and available options.

BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
Optronics
TLL160RK Rectangular LED Kit/Pair
optronicsinc.com
$34; nueratrailerparts.com Watertight: 3/3
Brightness: 1/3
Tinned Wire: 0/3
Amps: 3/3
Total: 7 Product Includes: Kit with wiring; license-plate bracket. Product Lacks: Watertight heat-shrink connectors. Product Highlights: Optronics’ LED lights feature a watertight potted polymer LED pod protected inside the Fresnel and housing. Stainless-steel mounting hardware is included. It also has an integrated license-plate illuminator. Best Application: Freshwater trailering or RV trailers are ideal; they’re saltwater serviceable too, with careful attention paid to ­waterproof connectors. Also Noted: The lights functioned perfectly but lacked tinned wire. That can be mitigated, however, by making all connections watertight with heat-shrink watertight connectors, such as those by Ancor.
Bill Doster
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
Optronics
TLL-12RK Oval Flush
LED Pair
optronicsinc.com
$44.99; gandermountain.com Watertight: 3/3
Brightness: 2/3
Tinned Wire: 0/3
Amps: 3/3
Total: 8 Product Includes: Right and left taillights; brake and turn lights and wiring terminal plugs. Product Lacks: All sidelights and license illuminators are individual components for a great custom look. Product Highlights: These lights are watertight and potted. Light plugs are pre-filled with silicone grease to extend corrosion-free operation. Best Application: Freshwater trailer­ing with custom bass boat, RV, utility or equipment trailers. They replace easily. Also Noted: They lacked tinned wire, so careful watertight connections with heat-shrink or silicone 3M connectors are essential — supply your own. The lights were solid feeling, with durable Fresnels and complete submersibility. Optronics manufactures a number of custom lights in this genre and also makes watertight LED sidelights and license-place iiluminators to keep the entire look consistent.
Bill Doster
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
Wesbar
407560 LED 4-by-6-Inch Taillight Kit
wesbar.com
$107.90; iboats.com Watertight: 3/3
Brightness: 2/3
Tinned Wire: 0/3
Amps: 2/3
Total: 7 Product Includes: All wiring and stainless-steel mounting hardware; license-plate bracket; driver-side taillight with license-plate illuminator; passenger-side taillight. Product Lacks: Amber side-clearance lights; center clearance light (both optional for trailers wider than 80 inches). Product Highlights: The Wesbar light was totally watertight but did not include tinned wire for maximum corrosion protection. All connectors are water-resistant, and taillight connector plugs are greased for added protection. Best Application: These lights should give their best service in freshwater marine trailering applications or saltwater trailering with special care to watertight wiring procedures. Also Noted: Non-watertight butt connectors for wiring mean salt or fresh water can penetrate wiring insulation, causing hidden corrosion.
Bill Doster
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
Wesbar
STL-80 (Kit 287512)
Submersible for Under 80-Inch-Wide Trailers wesbar.com
$73.67; amazon.com Watertight: 3/3
Brightness: 3/3
Tinned Wire: 3/3
Amps: 2/3
Total: 11 Product Includes: Right and left ­taillights; stoplights; turn indicators; license-plate illuminator. Product Lacks: Watertight connectors; side marker lights. Product Highlights: Durable housing, potted electronics and molded-in stainless-steel mounting studs make the installation easy. Also includes tinned wire harness. Best Application: Trailers under 80 inches wide, such as smaller utility boats and PWC trailers. Also Noted: Wesbar is one of the oldest names in marine trailering equipment and its complete line includes lighting, winches, hitch components and other hardware. For a complete rewiring and relighting of trailers, they have LED sidelights and full wiring harnesses as well. This light system boasted a very tough outer case, sealed and submersible.
Bill Doster

How We Tested
Bright is better, and light intensity levels are regulated by the Department of Transportation. All our lights met DOT requirements, but we verified light levels in our lab and also noted several other characteristics we felt were important for relighting a trailer.

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Brightness
We measured lumens from 15 feet away with a light meter and scored 3, 2 or 1 for the brightest to dimmest lights.

Watertight
All LEDs are electronic devices and must be protected with a watertight polymer poured and cured over the circuits to keep them functioning. All our lights scored 3 points in this test.

Power Misers
We measured current draw and gave a 3 to the least draw and a 1 to the highest draw. Incandescent lights draw about 100 times the current.

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Corrosion Resistance
Tinned wire is an essential feature for added corrosion protection, especially in salt water. We scored lights that use it with 3 points.

Total Score
12 possible points

BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights
BoatingLAB Tests: Trailer Lights Boating Magazine
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